Thursday, April 18, 2024

‘This is literally a march for our lives’: Greater Williamsburg students join #NationalWalkoutDay

High school students from Greater Williamsburg joined students around the country in a nationwide protest for change in U.S. gun laws Wednesday.

Students who participated in the protest, dubbed #NationalWalkOutDay, left class for 17 minutes Wednesday morning. Each minute of the protest was meant to honor each victim of last month’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where 17 students were killed.

The walk-out began at 10 a.m.

At Warhill High School, more than one hundred students funneled outside into a parking lot for the protest.

Two students, Lauren Findlay and Sianna Ferguson, spoke using a bullhorn to the group of students and staff, reading the names of the Florida students who were killed in the February shooting.

“This is literally a march for our lives,” said Warhill senior Lauren Findlay, 18.

The two also read aloud gun-violence statistics and advocated for changes in gun-related legislation in Virginia. Del. Mike Mullin, D-Newport News, stood alongside Findlay and Ferguson as they spoke at Warhill.

“It’s a pretty extraordinary thing to see hundreds of kids come out here today,” Mullin told WYDaily in an interview. “This kind of protest draws attention, but changes minds.”

According to Mullin, there have been several recent bills proposed in the General Assembly that covered the issues students spoke about Wednesday. The bills died on a “party line vote” in committee, he said.

“While most people were still getting their morning coffee,” Mullin added.

Ferguson, the walkout organizer, invited other local elected officials to attend as well, she wrote in a March 2 email.

According to WJCC Schools Director of Public Relations & Engagement Betsy Overkamp-Smith, the protest was fully organic, with no official announcement on any school system. Some students remained in class.

At Jamestown High School, several hundred students exited the building and gathered in the parking lot. One white sign appeared in the crowd, and most of the students huddled closely together.

School buses lined the front of the school, obscuring the view from the street.

At 10:17 a.m., students began working their way back inside, and at 10:20 a.m., a staff member began counting down from 10 to prompt students to re-enter the school.

Students also left York County School Division high schools, although the school division did “not have staff available to provide escorts” for reporters. According to YCSD spokeswoman Katherine Goff, all media must be escorted by staff when on school grounds.

Walsingham Academy students did not leave school at 10 a.m.

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